I have always loved the metaphors for the Church that are listed in our fundamental belief: body of Christ, bride of Christ, and family of God. Each of these metaphors helps us reflect deeply on our relationships with the Trinity as well as with one another. From the metaphor of the body I absorb the truth that we are a meta-system, whether we want to be or not. A “detached” retina is not alone. The pain and detachment it is going through has a very definite effect on all the rest of the intricate systems.
From the metaphor of the bride of Christ I gather that, all together, we are His beloved, that we are His pride and joy as we are in unity, that He deserves a bride without an auto-immune disease—without parts of her attacking other parts.
I especially love the metaphor of the family of God. It gives me insight into how we are to disciple. Although I hear “nurture and retention” as a phrase to describe how we can stem the tide of members becoming disillusioned and leaving active fellowship, the family metaphor shares with me the truth that a more apt approach to the problem would be “attachment and nurture.” New baby members of a family need secure attachment to caregivers in the family. Then, they need to be nurtured and established in the way of the Lord. While spiritual development is certainly a work of the Holy Spirit, like character development in a child, it is also an intentional function of a loving and supporting family.
But recently, another inspired metaphor has come to my attention which has given me even more to reflect on about how we view our mission in this world, and consequently, how we are “church.” This metaphor is based on 1 Peter 2:5. “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
At first glance, this verse can be passed over quickly. We hear much more about the truth that our body is the temple of the living God. We can probably recite 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 20. We have been told over and over that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within us, which we have from God. It has been reinforced that we are not our own, that we were bought with a price. We know we are to glorify God in our bodies. We don’t usually hear so much about how we are to glorify God through being Church.
Inspiration, however, recorded in the book In Heavenly Places, has very thought-provoking commentary connected to this metaphor of a spiritual house for a holy priesthood. It outlines the evangelistic purpose and sanctification process for both individual Christians and the corporate Church. This is the commentary:
"The church on earth is God’s temple, and it is to assume divine proportions before the world. . . . It is to be composed of living stones laid close together, stone fitting to stone, making a solid building. All these stones are not of the same shape or dimension. Some are large and some are small, but each one has its own place to fill. In the whole building there is not to be one misshapen stone. Each one is perfect. And each stone is a living stone, a stone that emits light. The value of the stones is determined by the light they reflect to the world.
“Now is the time for the stones to be taken from the quarry of the world and brought into God’s workshop, to be hewed, squared, and polished, that they may shine. This is God’s plan, and He desires all who profess to believe the truth to fill their respective places in the great, grand work for this time.
"The angelic architect has brought his golden measuring rod from heaven, that every stone may be hewed and squared by the divine measurement, and polished to shine as an emblem of heaven, radiating in all directions the bright, clear beams of the Sun of Righteousness.
“In this world we are to shine in good works. The Lord requires His people . . . to reflect the light of God’s character, God’s love, as Christ reflected it. As we look unto Jesus, all our lives will be aglow with that wondrous light. Every part of us is to be light; then whichever way we turn, light will be reflected from us to others. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. In Him is no darkness at all; therefore, if we are in Christ, there will be no darkness in us.
“The church on earth is to become the court of holy love. . . . Christian fellowship is one means by which character is formed. Thus selfishness is purged from the life, and men and women are drawn to Christ, the great center. Thus is answered His prayer that His followers may be one as He is one with the Father.”
This commentary helps to pull together truth God has been impressing on me from His Word. There are seven insights I’ve gained from reflecting thoughtfully on the above passage. These insights have greatly increased my sense of the need for “wholistic” discipleship among us. And also for the importance of our eschatological mission.
Insight 1: The church is God’s means of “tabernacling” in the world among all the people He loves, died for, and wants to save.
He asks us to let Him make out of us a sanctuary, that He may dwell among and show Himself. We are not simply a gathering of people who have been saved from everlasting torment or oblivion, and who therefore have an ethical obligation to let others know the escape route, should they want to take it.
Insight 2: Our success in being fit together as living stones affects God’s success in showing His character to all the people He loves, died for, and wants to save.
It matters how we live and move and have our being as Christians. We are not just people all residing, topsy-turvey in a bomb shelter until Jesus comes. Our very state of being is part of God’s message to the world.
Insight 3: Each of us living stones has a place to fit and to fill, so we cannot remain misshapen.
Many have over-emphasized justification. We function as if we have found the bomb shelter and just have to stay in it till we’re rescued, rather than realizing that we are actually being made into a temple structure for the dwelling place for God on this earth.
Insight 4: As the Spirit works to portray the character of Jesus through us to all the people He loves, died for, and wants to save, we become more and more transparent living stones.
There is a dying to self that is an integral part of this process. This involves physical, spiritual and emotional healing and development that is the work of the Spirit, but which is to be wisely facilitated in the life of the community.
Insight 5: Our individual value lies in the consistency of our looking to Jesus and reflecting the light of His character to all the people He loves, died for, and wants to save.
Imbuing the stones with life (re-vival) and shaping them to fit the temple design (re-formation) are accomplished by looking steadily to Jesus. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
Insight 6: Evangelism involves bringing new stones from the quarry of this world and including them in the temple of living stones where God works on us in order to demonstrate the character of His Son to all the people He loves, died for, and wants to save.
Evangelism changes from being an invitation to others to wait in the bomb shelter with us, to an invitation to be transformed from a misshapen quarry rock to a living stone in the temple, helping to reflect the glory of God to the rest of all the people He loves, died for, and wants to save.
Insight 7: Our very transformation process into smooth, transparent living stones fitted together into a “court of holy love” IS God’s message of hope to all the people He loves, died for, and wants to save.
“Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.” 
“Love to man is the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of glory became one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, "Love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12); when we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts.”
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (1 Pe 2:5). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 In Heavenly Places. (1967). (p. 281). Review and Herald Publishing Association.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Co 3:18). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 White, E. G. (1992). Last Day Events (p. 39). Pacific Press Publishing Association.
 White, E. G. (1973). God’s Amazing Grace (p. 54). Review and Herald Publishing Association.
"You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5, NASB).
We don’t usually hear so much about how we are to glorify God through being Church.
"The angelic architect has brought his golden measuring rod from heaven, that every stone may be hewed and squared by the divine measurement, and polished to shine as an emblem of heaven, radiating in all directions the bright, clear beams of the Sun of Righteousness" (In Heavenly Places, p. 281).
“Love to man is the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of glory became one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, "Love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12); when we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts” (God's Amazing Grace, p. 54).